Reading as a Solitary Act

Kari wrote about what she believes in:

I believe in the power of stories, both fictional and non-fictional, to teach us the truth about the world around us.

She also shared the story of a father and daughter who read together every day for 3,218 consecutive nights. Kari has mentioned many times in the past how she and her husband read things together. I commented:

I’m really intrigued by the concept of reading together outside of the classroom or church situation. Really, I am. My parents really didn’t do that with me growing up, at least not so I can remember. I know that they read to me, but my earliest memories of reading are of Doing It Myself [insert foot stamp here]. Reading has always been a solitary act for me, and I think that’s why it’s been easier to shunt aside in adulthood, as I become more cognizant of my need to be with people for my mood and other reasons. Yet I am so enriched by reading that it makes me sad that this is so.

Since you’re a librarian, I feel you’re the best person to ask: How do you develop this skill of reading together? Surely you have to work on it with your kids.

I guess I’m a little struck by this as, late last night, I re-watched Dead Poets Society for some inspiration. There are so many things I love about that story, which is certainly based around the interactions that John Keating has with his students in teaching them to be free thinkers in the otherwise-rigid environment of a traditional all-male preparatory school. I think that one of the reasons that this resonates with me is that I studied [and loved studying, don’t get me wrong] aerospace engineering as an undergraduate. While some students make that a collaborative nature, I am, by nature, a solitary student. If I’m in a group, I’m usually leading it and/or teaching others. Mind you, leading and teaching are both passions of mine, but they can turn me into an insufferable asshole.

But what really strikes me is how this learning-and-reading-as-solitary-pursuit goes contrary to my nature as an extrovert. I often give copies [sometimes buying them] of books I’ve read to friends, intending that we talk about them after we’re done. Sometimes we do, but it’s usually just a fleeting conversation or two. That thought leaves me a little sad.

Of course, this concept now makes me want to have kids even more, because I want to read with them. I should’ve taken Liza up on her putting-me-to-bed schtick that she pulled the other week—seriously, the Granades’ younger one wanted me to put her to bed, which was both the most precious and intimidating thing she’s ever done around me—and read to her. I think that would’ve been really special. But at the same time, I didn’t want to take that quiet time at the end of the day away from Stephen or Misty.